Credit: Original article can be found here
Patsy and Don Deeks own a little slice of heaven outside Timaru – a converted church and berry farm called St Mary’s Berries.
The couple decided to go in on a property with their son Matthew about five years ago, when they found the deconsecrated church for sale.
The building was just a shell when the family found it. There weren’t even any pews left behind after it was deconsecrated, but there were still plenty of beautiful architectural details they knew they wanted to make the most of.
“We’ve been very lucky,” says Patsy. “We had a brilliant builder. The last thing we wanted was for it to feel like a cold, drafty church, so it’s turned out really well. It’s warm and dry.”
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It’s also beautiful, with lots of little design touches, like the use of the carved plaster details as planters, and the exposed beams in the bedrooms, that hark back to the building’s 120-year history.
In the living area there are mix-matched vintage light shades and verandah doors open to a patio from what was once the altar. The guest bedroom even has a vintage stained-glass rose window. It all adds up to a unique home with a vintage, romantic feel.
“The master suite closes off, there’s a door in the hallway, so the wardrobe, ensuite, and bedroom are all totally separate from the rest of the house.”
The majority of the work took about a year, with the finishing touches taking another year to complete.
These included solar panels: The Deeks have been able to sell excess power back to the grid. They put a new roof on the church and the old iron was used to create a rustic fence, giving their patio some privacy from the pick-your-own berry gatherers who come on the weekends.
The church was originally built in 1903 by a local man named Quinn, and his brother, who owned a brick factory. It’s a triple brick dwelling, constructed entirely with Quinn’s Bricks.
The church was deconsecrated about 20 years ago and stood empty until the Deeks bought it.
Don is originally from Canada, Patsy has a rural New Zealand background, and Matthew, a silent partner in the venture, doesn’t live at the berry farm. Mum and dad wanted a sustainable, relaxed life in the country.
“We like fruit,” Patsy says. “It’s just something that we’ve always enjoyed doing – growing things.”
This is their first year selling their berries commercially. They have a hectare of covered planting and a hectare uncovered, with about 2000 strawberry plants, 800 blueberry plants and 200 boysenberry canes.
They also grow about 1200 plants bearing the up-and-coming superfood haskap berry, which looks like a blueberry on (healthy) steroids, but is really part of the honeysuckle family.
“They have three to five times the antioxidant of a blueberry, and they’ve probably got three times the flavour. They’re they’re a little on the tart side at the start. Then you start eating them, and it’s like, ‘wow, these are really good’.”
In ice cream they can’t be beaten, producing ”the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted,” says Patsy.
“All the hard work has been done, the foundations are all laid out. From here on in all the plants will just increase in yield.”
The family has decided to sell so that Patsy and Don can move to Wellington to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
“It’s actually quite tough to leave, we’ll both be quite sad,” Patsy says. “We always knew it was going to happen down the road further. But we have seven little grandchildren now and the family would like us to be a lot closer.
“Family is one of the most important things in our lives. So, we need to be where we can help.”
They have put St Mary’s Berries on the market as a deadline sale with a price expectation north of $1.25 million, making it a rare opportunity to walk into a unique home, with a viable business, for less than some 1-bed apartments in central Auckland.
While the area is rural and quiet, Patsy says: “we’re not isolated”. Timaru is 30kms down the road and there’s a State Highway right outside the front door.
The listing is with Lyz Palmer and Ricky McLeod for PG Wrightson Real Estate. The deadline closes at 1pm on April 20, unless sold prior.